AURORA — Ben Adams found himself in a familiar venue on Saturday.
The senior was protecting goal at Lou Kellogg Stadium, the home of Regis Jesuit lacrosse. But, instead of donning the red and white of the Raiders, he was blocking his old friends’ shots as a Cherry Creek Bruin.
The goalie, who transferred from Regis for his final high school season for personal reasons, snuffed out his former teammates’ offensive attack, securing an 8-4 victory for Class 5A's No. 1-ranked Cherry Creek (11-0) over No. 2 Regis (9-2). The Raiders beat Creek in the 5A state finals, 14-7, in 2014.
“Ben is a great kid and has had a really good season for us,” Bruin coach Bryan Perry said of the importance of his new goalie, a backup for the Raiders a year ago. “Obviously he played for Regis and was going against his old 'mates and that’s always special. He likes those guys quite a bit, but you always want to win that game, of course. He did a great job.”
“Hat's off to them,” Adams said of going against his former team. “They played a heck of a game.”
While Adams was humble in victory, he was the backbone and the leader of an emotionally charged group that was both aggressive and efficient.
“Our defense really stepped it up today,” the senior raved. “They’ve been playing great all year, but this was definitely our best game so far.
“Coach (Payton) Sanders keeps us together and knows what we need to do on defense.”
The Bruins — who jumped on Regis only 18 seconds in as sophomore attacker Asher Nolting found the net — gave up two goals in the first quarter, but held a 3-2 advantage as Nate Miller scored and Nolting scored again.
Then, Creek took full command as they choked the life out of Regis’ typically high-powered offense, one that returned the top three scorers (Chet Dunstan, Matt Soran, Ben Bechter) from last year’s 5A championship team.
But the Bruins’ defense was so dominant Saturday that Regis didn’t score from the time there were 31 seconds remaining in the first until there were only 8:21 left in the fourth, a depleting drought of over 28 minutes.
Of course, Creek wouldn’t have been able to seal a road victory over a team the caliber of Regis without a complete effort.
“We really hustled hard and shared the ball well in transition and that was a good thing,” Perry said. “We got some really good looks at the goal. Guys were seeing some things that were there.”
Nolting, Michael Morean, and Max Tennant led the undefeated Bruins with two goals apiece.
Dunstan, an Air Force recruit, had a hat trick with three of Regis’ four goals in defeat.
The rivalry between the two has blossomed into a full-fledged war every time they face off in recent years. Both teams have a healthy amount of respect for the other, but that doesn’t mean the games aren’t impassioned.
While a win over a powerhouse program is always sweet, Creek did beat the Raiders 10-7 in April of last year, as well, before falling to them in the finals. They know not to put too much stock into one game.
“We just want to stay tight through the ups and downs and obviously this is a big up,” Adams said. “We need to just get back to practice on Monday and keep working our tails off.”
“There are certainly some things we need to do better,” Perry added of his team.
Nonetheless, both player and coach are pleased with where Cherry Creek is at and where they could be headed.
And, the Bruins may have found something of a stalwart at the back end of their defense.
“Creek has welcomed me as a brother and it’s just great,” Adams said with a grin. “I love it.”